Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for May 29, Neh 12-13

Today’s readings are Neh 12-13.

The genealogies of the priests, Levites, and the High Priest are verified in Neh 12, affirming their qualifications to fill those offices. The Jews are very careful to observe services in the temple according to the law. The walls are dedicated during an elaborate ceremony giving thanks to God for His provision and protection. Contributions are made to support those who serve in the temple. This will be an ongoing practice as was established when Joshua apportioned the land to the twelve tribes.

Nehemiah has had an incredible impact on the city and the surrounding region. The city has been rebuilt, the temple renewed and dedicated, the priesthood re-established, and the people are in a right relationship with God.

The Book of Moses is read in Neh 13:1-3. In hearing the law, the people are convicted that prohibited foreigners, sworn enemies of Judah are living among them. As a result, the Ammonites and Moabites are deported.

Then Nehemiah leaves to go back to the king of Persia (Neh 13:6).

Oh, oh!

While he is gone, the people backslide! Tobiah, a compatriot of Sanballat the Samaritan (Neh 2:10) is given a room to live in in the temple, the room that was allocated to storing the tithe for the Levites and priests! A Gentile is living in the temple! The tithe ceases. The Levites lose their means of support and leave town. More backsliding is evident. Not only are people working on the Sabbath, but foreign merchants are selling goods on the Sabbath in Jerusalem, right under the noses of those left in charge (Neh 13:4-10)!

Nehemiah returns, chastises the leaders and begins cleaning things up. It's not easy, though. The merchants are sneaky, and the people want the merchandise they sell! Furthermore, the people are intermarrying again, to the Ammonites, Moabites, and Philistines (Ashdod). It's absolutely incredible (Neh 13:15-30).

Nehemiah struggles to clean it all up and re-establish order. He concludes by asking God to remember him (Neh 13:30). Nehemiah most likely felt alone and frustrated. Perhaps he wondered if what he was doing had any value. But, his heart was to serve the Lord and do what was right for the people, even if they did not appreciate it. The net result? Here we are, nearly 5,000 years later reading about Nehemiah's faithfulness and the shortcomings of those he served.

What Nehemiah finds upon his return is an incredible indictment of the leaders and the people of Judah, who were given such amazing grace and so quickly take it for granted, slipping back into sinful behavior. Sadly, the repeating pattern of blessing-sin-grace is not over. Malachi has much to reveal about that.

This map shows the extent of the work on the walls during Nehemiah's time. King Hezekiah extended the walls beyond those that Solomon built (2 Chr 32:1-5). Nehemiah rebuilt the area bounded by the blue line and the Temple Mount.

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